Olive Oil and White Bread is an unusual romance in that it doesn’t focus on the process of falling in love. Instead, it charts more than two decades between a couple, both their highs and lows. Jillian and Angie check each other out at a New York state softball game in the late 1980s and feel a spark. But they don’t meet for another year, until the catch sight of each other in a lesbian bar. They go out, fall in love, and have hot sex. They’re both in their early twenties and launching their careers. Angie’s newly out, and Jillian’s been out a little longer. They don’t have tons of romantic baggage, and it’s all excitement and aspirations.
Then the book flashes forward, showing meaningful points over their years together. They buy a house, get a dog, and settle into a life together. Though she had other dreams, Jillian makes peace with her career as an elementary school art teacher, while Angie grows increasingly frustrated working in sales at Logo Promo. Logo Promo is a company that makes promotional materials with client company’s logos on them. Angie works long, often unpleasant hours, which puts a gradual strain on their relationship.
Without giving too much away, after more than a decade and a half, the couple faces a crisis in their relationship. Years of minor problems collide in a way that threatens Jillian and Angie’s future together. I loved that the roots of the eventual conflict are introduced slowly over the course of the book. It isn’t some cliche “big misunderstanding” or a dramatic tragedy that provides the tension the couple faces. Instead, it’s a much more realistic constellation of unresolved issues, failure to communicate, and individual struggles that shake Jillian and Angie’s relationship. This book was honest and well written.
The only downside is that it was also sometimes depressing. Not angsty or overwrought, but genuinely sad. It’s hard to read about two decent people who love each other causing one another unintentional pain. Jillian and Angie act like normal, imperfect humans, and their actions are usually understandable. Their relationship feels real, and it was pretty emotionally demanding when things get tough between the couple.
This isn’t a reason to avoid the book, though. If you’re even remotely interested in fiction about lesbian couples, Olive Oil and White Bread is a good read. There aren’t a lot of romances about two women in long relationships. Plus, Angie is described as “not small” and sexy, beautiful, and mostly happy about her body. She never goes on a diet and no one does anything fat phobic. It is incredibly refreshing. It’s not always light or happy, but it’s a really good book. 4 out of 5 stars.